Russian forces evacuate Zaporizhzhia power plant over 'sabotage' fears

Russian forces evacuate Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant amid fears Putin’s troops are preparing to ‘sabotage’ it, Ukraine intelligence chief warns – as Moscow brands claim ‘pure lies’

  • Russian Foreign Minister has said country will emerge stronger after revolt

Russian forces occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine have started to partially evacuate the site, stoking up fears of sabotage.

According to comments alleged by the chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, Putin’s troops previously planted explosives at four of the plant’s six power units and cooling systems.

The claims were backed by President Zelensky, who this week warned Russia was planning a ‘terrorist attack’ on the nuclear power station that has been under Moscow’s control since March last year.

But the warnings have been branded ‘pure lies’ by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as he dismissed Ukrainian claims the Kremlin was planning some sort of ‘provocation’ involving the contested nuclear plant. 

Speaking to journalists, the 73-year-old said: ‘They say that we will blow ourselves up at a nuclear facility – well, is it necessary to comment on it: it’s just pure lies,’ before  adding Ukraine was ‘playing with fire’ over its comments. 

According to comments alleged by the chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, Russian forces earlier planted explosives at four of the plant’s six power units and cooling systems

The plant is located near the town of Enerhodar in the south of the country, under Russian control.

The GUR, Ukraine’s defence intelligence division, said Ukrainian staff members were advised to leave by Wednesday by representatives for Russian state-owned nuclear firm, Rosatom, which has been in control of the plant since its occupation.

Ukraine’s chief rabbi, Moshe Azman called on the world to do everything it can to stop the potential nuclear disaster which would be the second on Ukrainian soil after the Chernobyl in 1986.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Azman wrote: ‘The probability of undermining the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant by russian invaders has greatly increased.

‘The consequences of this can be unpredictable, I call on the entire world community to do everything in their power to stop the coming catastrophe. I ask everyone to pray that the Almighty will upset their insidious plans!’

As part of a response strategy to a potential nuclear disaster at the planet, Ukrainian civil defence and emergency teams started practising safety drills.

Civilians were given details for gathering points, the issuing of iodine tablets and evacuation routes on social media in case of sabotage, the Times reported.

Specialist teams were also seen to be practising decontamination procedures.

Lavrov also said the country will emerge stronger after a failed mutiny by Wagner Group mercenaries.

He claimed that the West need not worry about stability in the world’s biggest nuclear power, on Friday.

Asked by Reuters if Russia was stable and if he could give assurances to the world that Russia was not slipping into turmoil, Lavrov said Moscow was not obliged to explain anything or give any assurances to anyone.

Rescues and police officers attend anti-radiation drills for case of an emergency situation at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

Ukrainian emergency response personnel take part in exercises to prepare for the possible attack

‘If anyone in the West has any doubts, then that’s your problem,’ Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow. ‘Thank you for your concerns about our national interests, but there is no need.’

‘Russia has always emerged more resilient and stronger after any difficulties – and it is hard to call it anything more than difficulties,’ he added. ‘Moreover, we already feel that the process has started.’

Asked about the prospects for peace in Ukraine, Lavrov said he felt the West wanted to temporarily freeze the conflict to allow it to build up Ukraine’s military.

‘It is a schizophrenic situation: they say everything will end with talks but first Russia must be defeated,’ he said.

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